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GRCC to observe moment of silence today in honor of UCC shooting victims

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By Sean P. Mulhall, Kayla Tucker, and Chris Powers – Collegiate Staff

One week after a campus shooting in Oregon, Grand Rapids Community College will join other community colleges across the country in a moment of silence in honor of the Umpqua Community College victims.

The moment of silence is scheduled for 2 p.m. today and Fountain Street Church will also ring the church bells. Community members are encouraged to participate where they are.

According to Martha Parham of the American Association of Community Colleges, hundreds of colleges and universities including many in Oregon are participating in today’s moment of silence.

“We are having the moment of silence not only to remember the victims of the tragedy last week, but to also show that the community college community supports them,” Parham said.

GRCC Police Lieutenant Jeffrey Hertel was in a meeting for the Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) last week when he received a text from Chief Rebecca Whitman, informing him of the shooting at UCC. BIT provides support in cases of threats and other disruptive or suspicious behavior.

Hertel said the meeting was not interrupted because he believes that the campus is safe and if a similar situation were to happen here, the training and procedures in place will keep it safe.

“We are always aware of the other shootings occurring across the nation,” Hertel said. “We are a little more sensitive to what’s going on than the average person.”

The UCC shooting was the fourth such event on a community college campus, including a 2009 incident at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn. It was also the 15th time that President Barack Obama has had to make a speech about a mass shooting since he took office in 2009.

Hertel said when these shootings happen, they don’t miss anyone’s radar.

“I think it’s on everybody’s mind,” Hertel said. “It should be on everybody’s mind, from the police department to the students, to the faculty.”

Student Eden Vandeguchte, 19, said she feels GRCC is as safe as anywhere else.

“Everywhere you go there is risk because there’s bad people out there,” Vandeguchte said.

Hertel said the school is still using the “Run, Hide, Fight” directive to train faculty in the case of an active shooter on campus and how a teacher can attempt to secure a classroom. This training is required of all staff. In order to spread word of an emergency, the police department will utilize the PA system, the speakers on the poles outside, and send out an emergency message.

“I don’t think there is anyway you can stop somebody from coming onto campus and doing this, but you can put things in place,” Hertel said. “It is everybody’s responsibility to ensure the safety of this campus … Part of the responsibility lies with everybody that uses this campus.

“We are hopeful that they at least pick up the phone and call the police department. That’s part of our function too, to be approachable enough to the students where they would feel comfortable.”

As for students, Hertel is not aware of any discussion about further training.

“The training is directed at the instructor, or a building manager would be expected to kind of take the lead on that,” Hertel said. “It’s online if somebody wanted that training.”

Parham said there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for campus safety.

“Each college needs to respond in the best way for their own communities,” Parham said. “What works in Grand Rapids Community College may not work in downtown New York City or rural Kansas.”

Students and staff can make anonymous reports at either (616)234-3337 or online at grcc.edu/bit.

Kiyrah Floyd contributed to this article.